Your workout could be potentially dangerous if it is not fine-tuned to your needs.

The fitness industry has, no doubt, undergone revolutionary changes over the last decade. The appearance of gyms in every street, the availability of jobs for trainers, fitness managers, physiotherapists etc has created an increasing awareness about it. The easy accessibility of a fitness facility for most people, particularly in the cities, has encouraged them to start exercising; or so I would like to believe!

Are gyms keeping pace with advancement in science and training techniques? Are trainers qualified enough to make informed choices about the exercises they choose for you? Are gyms offering the right kind of training or could these exercises be harming you?

“One size does not fit all” is an axiom that holds good for fitness training as for everything else in life. Each individual has to have a specific goal in mind and train accordingly taking into consideration age, gender, lifestyle, fitness level, time available for fitness, medical history and a host of other variables.

Training

There are hundreds of exercises that are demonstrable but do you need to execute all of them? Which ones are safe? Which ones are required? Which ones are relevant? How does one make that choice? Ideally, a trainer should be able to. Not all of them do however. Sometimes I find clients are given unnecessary, even damaging, exercises in the hope of producing quicker results.

Often the repercussions of incorrect and inappropriate exercise are not evident immediately. It may be years before your knees show wear and tear after incorrect squatting or running technique. This is not to say one has to avoid performing these exercises altogether. What it means is that while executing these potentially injury-causing moves, watchful training and correction is required from your trainer.

Some clients need to be trained even to walk or run correctly. One would imagine that walking and running comes naturally. Apparently not! This is especially so of those individuals who have never participated in any kind of physical activity in their childhood or youth. The muscles seem to have forgotten how to function optimally. As a result, they tend to injure themselves even with the simplest of exercises. They need extra care and a vigilant approach to training to prevent injuries and further setback.

What is vital is a keen knowledge of the human anatomy and physiology. Understanding how the body responds to stress, (exercise is a form of stress) and the disadvantages of certain exercises is essential to prevent injury. Other issues worth considering are:

What happens to the body when one begins to exercise?

How the muscles, heart and lungs respond?

What possible problems might the individual face along the way?

What precautions need to be taken?

If you are new to weight training, ensure you are taught all the basic exercises properly before moving on to more advanced ones. Request assistance whenever required. If something does not feel right, stop. In your anxiety to see quick results, don't be lured into gimmicks and unhealthy strategies.

Ask questions. It's your body; you need to understand exactly which muscle you are working. Understand how to execute the exercise perfectly and how you could possibly do it wrong. For instance, the squat is a wonderful exercise to tone, shape and build the lower body.

There are several ways to do it wrong however, particularly if one has weak thigh muscles. A tall person will have difficulty in performing the squat with perfect form initially, for instance, due to his anatomical disadvantage. Being tall raises the centre of gravity and increases the length of his levers (the legs, in this case). This tends to cause the knees to travel beyond the toes and the body tilting forward to compensate for balance and an attempt to lower the centre of gravity while performing the squat.

How do you circumvent this problem? The solution is multi-fold. Besides constant supervision to ensure correct form, it is important to first strengthen the leg muscles in isolation before attempting the squat. Performing selective quadriceps, hamstring and gluteus muscle strengthening exercising before incorporating a compound exercise like the squat will prevent injury to the knee joint.

The add-ons

Massage, sauna and steam do not help you reduce fat! If fat loss is your goal, work hard, include cardio and weight training into your routine and watch your diet. Lying around, being massaged may be wonderfully relaxing but it certainly does nothing for your weight, however tempting it may be to believe otherwise.

Diet

You need to include a well-balanced, nutritious diet to get the best benefits from your fitness routine. Extreme low calorie diets are not sustainable and often have adverse effects.

You need to understand food from a holistic perspective and how to eat as a lifestyle, not as a temporary weight-loss, strategy. You don't need someone planning out menus for you. What you need is to understand food and implement your own choices.

Supplements and fat burners

What's wrong with healthy wholesome food? Get a nutritional analysis done to ascertain how much protein you actually consume. Only if that is insufficient and if you are unable to include protein from natural foods should you supplement with protein powders. A recreational exerciser definitely does not need it. Understand how to include various protein options in your diet. Consuming protein powders does not directly translate as an increase in muscle mass. Sensible training is what does. Creatine, glutathione and other isolated amino acids have been widely propagated. Long-term safety has not been confirmed. Randomly taking supplements and fat burners does not improve health or fitness. Besides, they are expensive. Investing in healthy holistic food is a more sensible option especially when one thinks of it as a “lifestyle”.

E-mail: drsheela@tfl-inc.com